How to file for an annulment in the Philippines

In the Philippines, Annulment is a legal process through which married couples can have their marriage declared void or null and void. Annulment, unlike divorce, does not terminate a legitimate marriage; rather, it proclaims that the marriage was void from the start due to specific grounds.

A divorce law has yet to be enacted in the Philippines, making it the only state in the world (other than Vatican City) where divorce is illegal.

According to the Family Code of the Philippines, the only way to dissolve a marriage is through annulment and declaration of nullity of marriage. To file for annulment, one must submit a petition for annulment to the Regional Trial Court in the province where the marriage took place. The process of annulment involves gathering legal documents such as the marriage certificate and paying a filing fee to the civil registry where the marriage was registered. The annulment must be filed within a certain period from the time of the marriage, and the annulment decree is granted by the court after careful consideration of the annulment case. As such, legal advice from a solicitor general is necessary for anyone looking to file for annulment.

This does not mean, however, that couples in the country have no means of escaping an unhappy marriage. The Philippine equivalent of divorce is an annulment, which is similar to divorce in many ways but takes longer and is more difficult to obtain.


Ways to Dissolve a Marriage in the Philippines

In the Philippine setting, there are four ways of having a marriage dissolved, (1) by filling an annulment on a voidable marriage, (2) filing a declaration of nullity of marriage on a void marriage, (3) recognition of a foreign divorce, or (4) death.

Family law governs the dissolution of marriages through various legal procedures such as the annulment of voidable marriages, filing of a petition for declaration of nullity, or the recognition of a foreign divorce. When a marriage is dissolved by filling an annulment on a voidable marriage, the decree of annulment declares the marriage void from the beginning as if it never existed. A petition must be filed in the province or city where the marriage took place, and the complexity of the case may affect the time it takes for the annulment to become final.

On the other hand, if a declaration of nullity of marriage is filed on a void marriage, it means that the marriage was invalid from the start due to grounds for legal separation such as one or both parties being incapable of consummating the marriage. In the case of a foreign divorce, the recognition of the divorce in the Philippines also falls under family law, and the procedures for recognition are found in the family law of the country.

Finally, when a marriage is ended by death, it is also governed by family law in terms of distribution of assets and the settling of legal matters.

Difference between Annulment and Nullity of Marriage in the Philippines

Difference between an Annulment and a Nullity of Marriage is – 

(a) An annulment of marriage annuls or declares a no longer valid marital union between a husband and a wife. This is different from 

(b) a declaration of nullity, which applies to marriages that are void from the start.

What are the grounds for Petition for Annulment of Marriage (valid until annulled)?

According to Article 45 of The Family Code of the Philippines, there are 6 legal grounds for the annulment of a marriage:

  • Absence of Parental Consent (if either party is at least 18 but below 21 years old)
  • Mental Illness or psychological incapacity
  • Fraud
  • consent for marriage of either party was obtained by force, intimidation or undue influence.
  • One or the other party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage, i.e. impotence
  • Either party was at the time of marriage afflicted with a sexually-transmitted-disease (STD) found to be serious and seems to be incurable

Another ground which is the most common reason cited in an annulment is the Psychological Incapacity based on Article 26 of the Family Code, which is broadly defined as the inability of one or both spouses to comply with basic marital obligations. Accepted manifestations of psychological incapacity include the refusal of one spouse to live with the other, an antisocial or narcissistic personality disorder, drug addiction, unabated alcohol consumption, and others.

What are the grounds for Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage (void from the very beginning)?

  • marriage between parties below 18 years of age (even with parental consent), 
  • bigamous or polygamous marriages, 
  • lack of authority of the solemnizing officer, 
  • absence of a marriage license
  • mistake as to the identity of one of the parties
  • subsequent marriages where the declaration of nullity of a previous marriage was not recorded in the partition or liquidation of the properties of the spouses or where there was no distribution of the presumptive legitime of the children with the proper government registry
  • psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the family Code.

Recognition of Foreign Divorce

In recognition of foreign divorce, there is already a divorce decree that was secured by an alien spouse in a foreign country where divorce is recognized, and it only needs to be recognized as valid in the Philippines.

Filing for Annulment Abroad

If you are a citizen of another country, and divorce is allowed under your national law then you can file a divorce decree. Otherwise, if you and your ex-spouse are both Filipino citizens, you may file an annulment or declaration of nullity of marriage. You can file an annulment or declaration of nullity of marriage even though you are residing abroad, but you need to have the exact address of your ex-spouse as this will be the basis for the location/venue of the court to file your petition.

You may still be able to file an annulment abroad provided that all the documents that will be filed in court will be notarized and apostilled in the country where you are currently residing. You may also testify via videoconferencing before the Philippine Embassy/Consulate in the foreign country where you are currently residing. 

In the event that you are a citizen of another country and divorce is granted, should you file one, and thereafter desire to marry another Filipino citizen, then you need to have the divorce decree recognized in the Philippines in order for your marriage to be considered legally dissolved. The petition for the recognition of foreign decree (divorce) needs to be filed in the Philippines where your marriage was solemnized.

What is the process of filing an annulment case or declaration of nullity of marriage?

The following are the steps you need take in an annulment proceeding:

  1. Hire a lawyer
    The annulment process involves filing the necessary papers with the proper courts, as well as several hearings. You will need a lawyer to accurately draft the legal forms and prepare the supporting documents, file them with the right body, and represent you in court hearing.
  2. Get a psychological evaluation
    If the grounds for annulment is psychological incapacity, the petitioner must show proof or evidence that the spouse’s psychological incapacity is severe, incurable, and existed prior to the marriage. While not a requirement, a professional assessment by a psychologist or similar practitioner will definitely give credence to the charge.
  3. File the petition for annulment with the proper court
    This is typically the Family Court where either the petitioner or respondent resides six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition.
  4. Attend the pre-trial conference
    This is a mandatory procedure aimed at dealing with certain issues to speed up the process. Failure of the petitioner to appear can lead to the dismissal of the petition.
  5. Go through the trial
    This is when arguments for and against the annulment are heard. Several hearings may be needed.
  6. Receive the judge’s decision
    The decision is considered final after the lapse of fifteen (15) days from receipt of the Decision if no reconsideration or appeal is sought by either party.
  7. Registration of Decree
  8. Settle asset distribution
    Liquidation and separation of assets, child custody, support, and presumptive legitimises (i.e., the assets the children are entitled to inherit) and other issues related to the annulment of marriage may be agreed upon by both parties.

The entire annulment process can take as long as one to two years, or more. The length of time and the high costs involved in annulment are two factors that divorce advocates cite in calling for a divorce law in the Philippines.

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